It was sometime in the evening -- three days after Jacintha Morris' video was uploaded on YouTube -- when she got a frantic call from her son-in-law. Morris, who was attending a local literary group meet-up, had ignored the first call. She would, of course, call him back later. However, the phone wouldn't stop ringing. An alarmed Morris excused herself from the meeting only to hear a strange, terrifying news she couldn't make any sense of. The song called 'Is Suzainne a sinner?' she had recently written, sang and turned into a video, she was told, was making life miserable for her children.
"'Do you know what all people are calling you?' my son-in-law shouted. 'They have called you a whore, a slut, a sex maniac, a crazy woman,' he told me. 'Please take the video down Mummy. We can't step out of the house otherwise', he requested. I couldn't understand who is saying all those things," Morris tells HuffPost India.
Fifty-two-year-old Morris says she barely manages to operate Facebook, forget figuring out how YouTube works. So after 'Is Suzainne a sinner?' ' was released in form of a CD in her hometown Trivandrum, an acquaintance who helps her manage some of her social media accounts, uploaded the video on YouTube.
'Please take the video down Mummy. We can't step out of the house otherwise'
The first two days went fine. There were a few thousand hits on the video, she was told. On the third day morning, the acquaintance informed her that the views have spiked steeply. Morris still had no clue what was up. "It was good to know people are watching the video," she remembers. And then in the evening, that call from her son-in-law came.
"I couldn't figure who was saying such terrible things. Then, my children, started sending me the comments on WhatsApp. Some sent pictures of the comments on the YouTube page," she says. That was still the tip of the iceberg.
Within a day, several fake profiles were set up in Morris' name, some of them leading to pornographic content. "People started scanning my Facebook profile. Some of them tagged me in posts saying nasty things. I initially didn't know how to delete them - everyone on my friend-list could see those dirty comments, I was told," she says, adding, she got someone to delete those comments and untag her.
People she knew told her that they didn't want to face the consequences of the 'rubbish' she has done. In a week's time, the same thing her family applauded her for, had turned into a liability which they desperately wanted to get rid off. "I was also told, it won't be easy. Everyone has seen it. Everyone knows my name. Everyone has taken pictures from the video. It can't be undone," she says in a small voice. Suddenly, Morris was left to deal with the idea that she has committed, what she calls, 'a great crime'. "I really couldn't say why these people were doing this. I have never hurt anyone and all I wanted to do was make an entertaining video which also gives a message."
"I couldn't figure who was saying such terrible things. Then, my children started sending me the comments on WhatsApp."
'Is Suzainne a sinner?' went viral on social media, with several websites calling her India's answer to Taher Shah. Morris pulled down the video immediately a day after it was written about by several news and entertainment sites.
Fed up of being trolled, however, Morris decided to 'keep faith in herself and God'. So, she put the video back up on her Facebook page today.
"A lot of websites have apparently written about it, my children told me. They have only mocked me and said terrible things. We can't delete those reports anyway," she adds.
'Is Suzainne A Sinner', Morris says, was meant to talk about social evils that no one talks about in the open. She says her song meant to ask people, especially men, if they think twice before labelling women "sluts, whores, and bad influences". Morris, who has been working in a Central government office for over two decades, says she had met several Malayali women who led 'perfect' lives when they were young. Later in life, they were driven to desperation, heartbreak and desires. "Does anyone want to know why they do, what they do? They are quick to label these women terrible things, they will comment on them and gossip, but what changes these women?" she asks.
She says her song meant to ask people, especially men, if they think twice before labelling women 'sluts, whores, and bad influences'
Morris remembers one woman she met, a woman who was gossiped about in hushed voices, who was avoided politely and most often referred to as what a woman shouldn't be. "You know, she later told me, she was a good child. She said her prayers, she went to school and studied hard. In her teens, she had no affairs either. Because everyone told her she has to get married to a man, who will be the love of her life. Then what happened? She got married, and her husband stopped going to work after a few years. He was always drunk. He made her take loans. She had to, because she had to feed the children. And then he couldn't pay back the loans," she recounts, a voice a mix of bristling impatience and empathy.
The woman, Morris says, did 'favours' for other men in exchange of money. "What could she have done? Who made her this? No one talks about her husband or the men, who are married and still meet her," she asks.
There was another she met who, again, led a 'pious' life. "But she was always beaten up by her husband. Later in life, she became bold and angry. She flirted with other men. Why shouldn't she?" she narrates.
Suzainne, says Morris, was supposed to tell the stories of the dozens of women she has met - who are made to believe that piety and chastity are what make a woman happy and God rewards them for it. "Later, life hits them in horrible, devastating ways," she adds.
She says she also wanted to make the video fun, so that people get the message. "That is why I asked in the video, 'is Suzainne a saint or a sinner'. I wanted the society to decide," she says.
However, before society could, social media had already decided the fate of the video and the lives Morris and her family would lead for the next couple of days. Traumatised by what they consider was their mother's flight of fancy, they have decided to punish her the best way upset children know - they have stopped talking to her. One daughter, who works in Bangalore had a nervous breakdown and has not been to the dental clinic she works at, since. "They cried... they cried. All of them. I made them cry," Morris mumbles.
"I am not a singer, I am not the greatest poet you may know. I didn't even ask everyone to watch my video. If you don't get it, move on. Why do you have to abuse me?"
The interesting thing here is, Morris' family was in on her plan and video initially. Everyone one saw in the video were related to her. The nuns in the video are her sisters, the men her brothers-in-law and the judge, her brother. Her younger daughter also featured in the video. Morris had taken up writing as a hobby almost 18 years back. It was a creative writing competition she won at work which had her more interested in writing. "I wanted to write about reality you know? I can write in Hindi, Malayalam and now English too."
A lot of Morris' published works she says earned praises from strangers too. She was invited to join literary clubs in her hometown Trivandrum. There was criticism yes, but never this virulent and corrosive.
"I am not a singer, I am not the greatest poet you may know. I didn't even ask everyone to watch my video. If you don't get it, move on. Why do you have to abuse me," Morris asks, clearly still baffled.
"Social media is like that, Jacintha. Happens to all of us," I tell her, hoping that would be of some consolation.
"Why?" her voice is a strained, thin whisper.
Obviously, I don't have an answer for that.Suggest a correction